Oil majors must support sustainable aviation fuels: Iata

11 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

NEW YORK: Governments and oil majors must redirect their focus and investment to support sustainable aviation fuels as the airline industry prepares to raise its environmental goals, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) chief said.

Higher production could lower the price of sustainable aviation fuels as global airlines continue to invest in cutting their carbon footprint even during the Covid-19 pandemic that has hammered the aviation industry, the trade body said in an online press event on Thursday, report agencies.

“The time for talking is over, the time for action is now, we want everybody in the industry to play their part and to raise their game significantly to ensure we can meet the targets that are necessary for the industry,” Willie Walsh, Iata’s director-general, told reporters during the Iata Global Media Days.

The aviation industry has faced a severe backlash from climate change activists to reduce its carbon emissions. In 2009, Iata pledged to halve carbon output by 2050, compared with 2005 levels, but has not updated its target since then, despite emissions rising due to a pre-pandemic air travel boom.

“We recognise that we do need to update our targets. Our intention is to bring a proposal to our annual general meeting, which we will be held in Boston between October 3-5 and you can wait for the AGM … and you will hear from Iata in relation to our new goals,” Mr Walsh said.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 countries, aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C — preferably to 1.5°C — compared to pre-industrial levels. It does not specifically include international aviation.

Mr Walsh said that while airlines are working to reduce their carbon emissions, they cannot do it on their own and there is a feasible path towards carbon neutrality if governments, oil companies and aircraft manufacturers contribute to do their part.

“What will be unacceptable to us is if everybody who benefits from our industry in the wider aviation chain thinks that the airlines will just write a big check. We’re not going to do that; we will clearly pay the price that is necessary but we expect others to invest and pay the price as well,” he said.

Big oil companies are interested in continuing to produce kerosene because they have invested significantly in that infrastructure, but they now “need to step up to the mark,” Mr Walsh said.

“It’s not good enough that these people talk about wanting to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. We need them to be a part of the solution and therefore they’ve got to start putting their money, their investments and focus on SAF in the same way as they focused on jet kerosene for many years — the industry will demand it,” the Iata boss said.

Mr Walsh added that oil companies should turn their attention to sustainable aviation fuel production and “rest assured” that there will be demand from global airlines.